A/N:

Here's another result of the Last Author Standing contest. The prompt for this one was "Sometimes even to live is an act of courage" -Seneca. Takes place after "Baggage" in season 6.

Tonight's episode has reminded me to post it.


House came home from his last session with Nolan and immediately took the new bottle of bourbon out of the bag. As he settled down on the couch, he realized that he actually didn't want to have a drink. He didn't want to do anything. What was the point?

He grabbed the dirty glass from the coffee table and poured himself a double shot anyway. Slugging it back, he barely thought about the burn going down his throat. You know this is what you want, so just drink it already, came a strong voice from inside his head. He didn't argue, just automatically refilled the glass.

Wilson was happy with Sam and without him; Cuddy was obviously happy with Lucas; and Nolan seemed to have reduced their sessions to some kind of game, in which Nolan viewed House a puzzle. Ironic, considering that was House's view of patient care, too. He just didn't think it worked so well with mental health. Why couldn't Nolan just listen to what he'd been trying to say? Why couldn't anybody listen to him? Was this like the boy who cried "Wolf?" Had he burned through all his bridges? Did everybody think that House was just playing games, just manipulating people?

As he swallowed his second glass of bourbon, he thought that it certainly seemed impossible at this point for him to find happiness, much less support from his so-called friends. They didn't know that on a good night he was back to at least three glasses of bourbon just to fall asleep. They didn't know about the agonizing nights he spent awake, praying for the pain to stop for just five minutes so he could relax all of his other tense muscles. They didn't know because he kept it from them, because he didn't want them to worry, or feel sorry for him. That's what friends do – they protect each other.

They didn't know that in the last few weeks, he had spent every night doing exactly this – drinking numbly and staring off into space. He no longer even bothered to turn on the t.v. Even his guitars and piano sat untouched – sometimes they were a great way to get through his emotions; play them out hard until a weight was lifted from his shoulders and carried away by the instrument. He was long past that point, though. He could barely even entertain the idea of moving from the couch – why should he?

House threw back a third glass and thought about the Vicodin stashed behind his bathroom mirror. It had remained untouched for almost a year, but what was the point? Nobody else cared about his sobriety, so why should he? He had made overtures of friendship toward Cuddy and tried to show up at her Thanksgiving on his best behavior, only to be sent on a wild goose chase for six agonizing round trip hours in the car. He had tried to leave Lucas alone, only to be physically assaulted several times for something Wilson had actually done. House didn't care – he had been beaten up so many times in his life that he would gladly do it again, if it meant someone would pay attention to him. If it meant someone would care that he still existed.

But he wasn't sure that anybody did anymore. Forget the Vicodin stash; he still had a box full of emergency morphine at the top of his bookshelf. It would be so easy to just inject a little too much; accidental overdose. Or non-accidental – who cared what people thought? He would no longer be there and expected to defend himself against their accusations.

His eyes traveled up to the top of the bookshelf and he stared. He stared for so long that he forgot he was holding a glass, and it dropped and shattered. Finally, he tore his eyes away from the bookshelf, and let them settle on the book that was already open on top of the coffee table. Seneca's Letters To Lucilius had been open to the same page for three weeks. Nobody looking on would give the page a second glance, but House could find the passage he wanted by now without even looking through the text: Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.

Walking gingerly around the glass, he limped his way into his bedroom and fell into bed. Just one more day, he told himself. Just make it one more day, and then if things don't get better…maybe tomorrow night.

He fell into a restless sleep. He had been telling himself "one more day" every day for weeks now. None of his tomorrows had been better than the last, but he kept going anyway.